Since I was introduced to website accessibility, I quickly noticed that it is an esoteric subject. Far too many industry technicians and companies overlook the guidelines, while few members of the public seem to have little or no knowledge of them. Many believe that a modern and great website has pretty images or logos, moving elements and unrequested video running in the background. Unfortunately, people often confuse an accessible website as a responsive one: one you can read on your phone.

Website accessibility implementation is a complex and arduous task that needs to be carried out by experienced and skilled web developers, IT technicians and web content writers. So it’s no surprise that while many web development companies are aware of the accessibility guidelines, they simply choose to ignore them. Instead, these companies opt to follow the easy path: they market their services with aesthetically pleasing images and fancy effects to allure potential customers and make them believe that those features make up a modern, attractive and potentially lucrative website. Sadly, they develop great looking products, but they are barely accessible to vision impaired users. While it is true that several websites type exist to accommodate different industry requirements, website accessibility must be considered regardless and not be ignored just because it’s complex and difficult to implement.

Educational institutions should implement website accessibility guidelines, as they have a moral obligation to the community and one could argue a statutory one. The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 aims to promote equal opportunity and access for people with disabilities. In the Information Technology world, this means that web developers from public and private sectors need to adopt the guidelines to abide by this act. Teachers and educators, therefore, should be aware and expect their schools’ websites to be developed using website accessibility guidelines and standards. Inaccessible websites may open the door to litigation, but that’s for future posts.

Meanwhile, there are important fringe-benefits to making your school website accessible. One is that an accessible website can and will improve enrolments as long as it’s maintained regularly with accurate and up to date information. Notably, recent UK research has linked website design to enrolment patterns. For example, one study found that a poorly-designed Irish higher education website contributed to significant dropouts among students with particular disabilities. This was because they cannot access certain assignments services. When interviewed, one visually impaired student said that while they used a computer program to be able to read web pages aloud, but did not with his university’s website.

What if a school’s newsletter containing important information about vaccination for Hepatitis B cannot be accessed by a visually impaired student? Country schools are often a point of contact to their communities.

Is your school or business website accessible?

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